Follow-up on The Mistake (Corbett/Dalhousie cut): letter from Annapolis naturalist to Nova Scotia Premier and others

For Reference. From HPMV Dec 28, 2018

“I ask that all of you give consideration to the future of this forest. Is it really worth destroying one of our exceedingly few remaining “old forests” – a stand of 21.5 hectares – in order to make a few more bucks?”
UPDATE Jan 8, 2019: Forestry faux pas – Corbett Lake proposed harvest posting a mistake; concerned citizens skeptical, hope to save what’s left
Lawrence Powell in the Annapolis County Spectator Jan 8, 2019. “When residents concerned about possible harvest of crown forest at Corbett Lake found out on New Year’s Eve that it was all a big mistake, they could have packed up their maps, GPS units, and social media ecological sites and went home. They didn’t.”

In a post made yesterday on Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology (public facebook group) naturalist Bev Wigney shared the following letter she wrote to the Premier (also her MLA) and others regarding The Mistake (Re: – Annapolis Co. Nova Scotia folks investigating more Crown land cuts NSFN Post Dec 23, 2018 & WestFor/Nova Scotia L&F’s 19 meter “Road to Nowhere”  NSFN Post Dec 29, 2018):

SUBJECT: The Corbett-Dalhousie Lakes Forest — a failure in public consultation and forest management practices.

REFERENCE: Parcels AP 068637B, and AP 068637D, Annapolis County, NS.

Hon. Premier Stephen McNeil
Hon. Minister of Lands and Forestry, Iain Rankin
Deputy MInister of Lands and Forestry, Julie Towers
Executive Director of Climate Change, Jason Hollet
William Lahey, President & Vice-Chancellor, Kings College
Warden Timothy Habinski (Annapolis County – Forestry
Advisory Committee)
Councillor Gregory Heming (Annapolis County – Forestry
Advisory Committee)
Mayor William MacDonald (Mayor of Annapolis Royal)

Quote from Forestry Report 2018 – Municipality of the County of Annapolis:

“Without an intelligent shift away from current practices, we will continue to degrade our forest resource, and lose the multitude of social, economic, and ecological benefits that a healthy forest provides.” (quoting from “Restoring the Health of Nova Scotia’s Forests, 2010)

On Boxing Day, eighteen citizens of Annapolis County met at Neaves Road, a few kilometres south of Bridgetown, to visit the Crown land forest that stands on a peninsula between Corbett and Dalhousie Lakes. Our purpose was to see what kind of forest we might find. Two parcels of forest had recently appeared on a notification list, as well as on the Nova Scotia Harvest Plan Map Viewer (HPMV) website. Both parcels were listed as proposed for a “Uniform Shelterwood” harvest. Public comments were stated as open until January 19, 2019. Based on NS forest maps, we had determined that the north parcel (AP 068637B) was a “multi age / old forest” consisting of hardwood coded mainly Sugar Maple and Red Maple. The south parcel (AP 068637D) was described as softwood – mainly Red Spruce and Balsam Fir.

Photo from Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology illustrates some of the intact forest

As you have no doubt learned through the media, our citizen group arrived at the forest to find that harvesting was well underway, and a substantial logging road had been put in place, crossing over the east side of the northern hardwood parcel. Further exploration into the as yet untouched section of the north parcel (AP 068637B), revealed many very large trees – many over 5 to 6 feet in circumference, and some over 8 feet in circumference. Many were immense Yellow Birch (something of a surprise as the codes we found on the NS maps did not seem to mention Yellow Birch). We found some goodly sized American Beech that were not afflicted with Beech Bark disease — so must have some resistance. We found some very large Red Spruce, especially growing up on a ridge where there was evidence that Deer make use of their shelter on that higher vantage point. We found trees with hollows among the roots or in their trunks — perfect habitat for many mammals, birds such as owls, and as one beekeeper among us commented, cavities where bee hives are often located. We found all manner of lichen, mosses, ferns and fungi. Upon the snow of the adjacent lake, we found prints of Fisher leading to the forest. Stated in the simplest of terms, we found ourselves within a forest that exhibits a wealth of biodiversity. A forest standing on the shoreline of Corbett Lake — a lake dotted with small wooded islands — a scenic lake featured as Route #12 in the Annapolis County Recreation Department’s canoe route publication. We found ourselves within an ecologically valuable oasis in the midst of what has become a very heavily clear-cut area of Annapolis County. We found ourselves within what might well be one of the few remaining significant tracts of “old forest” in our county.

From Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology Facebook page

Unfortunately, as we soon discovered, the south end of the north parcel has already been partly harvested in a form of two-stage clearcutting known as a “Uniform Shelterwood” harvest, whereby some of the taller trees are allowed to remain standing, while the larger percentage of merchandisable trees are removed. Within as little as 3 years, another cut can be made to remove the remaining tall trees — so, in effect, this being nothing more than a somewhat delayed form of clear-cutting. The south parcel which is predominantly softwood, has already undergone the first cut of its “Uniform Shelterwood” harvest.

Of course, after viewing all of this, we were deeply concerned. The situation was discussed on our Annapolis Royal & Area Environment & Ecology social media group. Soon, word of our findings spread. The story was also published in the Annapolis Spectator. Some of us began to ask questions and send off emails to the Harvest Plan Map Viewer (HPMV) site. Then, suddenly, all of us who were subscribed to the HPMV notifications, received the following terse email message from HPMV, late in the afternoon of December 31, 2018. It stated:

“AP068637B and AP068637D were originally posted as proposed clear cuts for public comment in 2015. They were approved as partial harvests in 2018 and harvested in the same year. They were reposted in error this month and will be removed from the Harvest Plan Map Viewer this week.”

Needless to say, this cryptic message raised more questions than it answered. There are many in this area who watch the HPMV notifications quite carefully and don’t recall seeing mention of this harvest. We sent emails asking what date the notifications were sent out. We wanted to know more about the process by which the harvest was changed from a proposed clearcut and approved as a Uniform Shelterwood cut, but as of the hour of the writing of this email, there has been no further explanation offered. And so we wait. In the meantime, we are now hearing from local people around the lake telling us that there are Blandings Turtles (a species at risk) in these lakes — they are adamant that they are Blandings and not Painted or Snapping Turtles. We are hearing from area residents who are distressed to be losing one of the last intact forests as all the others around them are falling as clearcuts. We are hearing from hunters who saythat the shelter for Deer is rapidly dwindling in that
part of the county as the clearcuts take down more and more forest.

It seems quite apparent that there’s a serious problem here, having to do with a failure in public consultation. The sad part of all of this is that, what appears to be a very ecologically significant forest, will “pay the price” for this failure to consult adequately with the community. Just think — a forest with at least a good number of trees that may well be over 200 years of age, and provide a such a vital part of a matrix of rich biodiversity that will not possibly be replaced in a similar way in well over 300 or 400 years (if ever), seems destined for almost total destruction — because that is about what remains when you reduce an “old forest” to nothing more than a two-stage harvest patch. All of those huge “legacy” Yellow Birch, Sugar Maple, and other hardwood trees — aged as they are and many being hollow inside — excellent for wildlife habitat — will *not* make good saw logs. Instead, they will, in all likelihood, end up being carted off to be chipped for pulp, or for export as biomass, or burnt as biomass by NS Power. We saw a few such trees from the first harvest strips that have taken place at the south end, lying stacked to the side — hollow through the center – obviously sorted out into the “almost worthless” pile. So, instead of fulfilling their ecological purpose as towering trees in one of the *only* remaining forests of this age and type in our county, the remaining legacy trees will eventually be harvested for a poor economic return. Sad. Very, very sad. Is this forest with its towering canopy of legacy trees not worth more as wildlife habitat and as a vital means of carbon sequestration?

Also sad is the fact that we will be losing a wonderful forest — one that could have been enjoyed by the people of this area. Being located so close to the communities of Bridgetown, Annapolis Royal and Lawrencetown, we are losing an invaluable resource — a forest that could be enjoyed for hiking in summer, launching canoes in Corbett Lake, snowshoeing and x-country skiing in winter, nature study and perhaps even an outdoor camping place for scout and guide troops. A forest such as this, back in Ontario where I grew up, is just the type that would almost certainly be preserved under the watershed conservation authority system, or been made into a community forest, or even a small provincial park similar to the Mickey Hill Pocket Wilderness. To see it cut down as “merchandise” would be seen as a gross failure in conservation. Are we not better than this here in Nova Scotia?

I ask that all of you give consideration to the future of this forest. Is it really worth destroying one of our exceedingly few remaining “old forests” – a stand of 21.5 hectares – in order to make a few more bucks? Must this tiny oasis of biodiversity be destroyed when there are so many thousands of hectares of “other forest” being harvested to fill the demand for “product”. Why is it so important the every last bit of forest be earmarked as a piece of merchandise.

Thank you for your attention to this matter


Bev Wigney’s preface to the letter in her post on Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology (public facebook group):

I finally had time to finish the letter I’ve been working on for the past couple of days. It will probably be shared onto other groups. No doubt I’ll be attacked by some for what I’ve written. However, I want to make it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that I am not criticizing the quality of the work that was done at the Corbett-Dalhousie Lake forest. I’m told by those who know better, that it was a good job, and probably exactly what was ordered by the powers that be. No, what I AM criticizing is the failure to consult adequately with the public and give proper respect and consideration to the will and needs of our community. I am ALSO criticizing the harvest plan that was devised for the north hardwood parcel AP 068637B. We have precious little remaining “old forest” in Annapolis County. Whatever there was, is already gone, or going down fast. This is a unique forest situated in a particularly ideal setting — beneficial to wildlife and well suited to the recreational use and enjoyment of the community. I have to question the burning need to “take down” this small but ecologically important forest when there are (supposedly) many thousands of hectares of well-managed forest around the province. If so, why the great need to harvest every tiny island of biodiversity. Why not go back to those already harvested forests that are (supposedly) growing back so well and take from those instead?

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